This is an extended version of the article submitted to the Sale and Altrincham Messenger for inclusion is this week's paper.
Altrincham bosses have defied the current uncertainty over football’s future by boldly declaring they will press ahead with plans to have an Academy up and running for the start of next season.
The scheme was plunged into doubt by the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus across the country, with schools shut down and the football season put on hold.
But while cutbacks have been the norm elsewhere, Alty have bucked the trend and pledged that they will open up a potential pathway to manager Phil Parkinson’s first-team squad for the area’s emerging young talent.
Buoyed by emphatic evidence of the club’s importance to supporters, in the form of an appeal fund that now tops £17,000, and eager to reap the benefits of producing homegrown talent, director Lawrence Looney explained the board’s stance by saying:
‘We had a tough choice to make. Do we go ahead and launch the Academy in these uncertain times, or play safe and wait until next year? Our decision was clear – we go ahead.
'The ending of the academic year and the fact there will be no end-of-year exams has caused so much stress for young students, who now face massive uncertainty about their future. By sticking to our plans for the Academy, we can offer a way forward, we can offer hope to those young people to whom we have offered a place.
'The benefits of being able to support our community at this time far outweigh the risks and the potential financial burden that this may put us under. Altrincham Football Club are committed to setting up this Academy, and we are delighted to be able to go ahead for 2020-21.'
Pre-lockdown trials were held at the club in January, with Looney, fellow-director John Coyne and assistant-manager Neil Sorvel all in attendance.
Coyne commented: 'There were some great players out there, and they were so impressed by the fact that Neil was there to watch them. You can see that the idea of an Altrincham FC Academy is an exciting one for the players.'
Sorvel added: 'The Academy adds an important step in our Player Pathway and will be a critical link between the juniors, the youth teams and the first team. We want to attract the best young talent to this club, knowing they will be developed to become the best footballers they can be.'
The Academy will start with around 20 places this year, with the hope that this will grow to nearer 40 from next year and beyond. And if things have not returned to normal by then, the club will launch with Distance Learning and individual training plans to make sure that all students get the right support as they start this important journey.
Meanwhile, Alty's appeal for funds reached a remarkable £17,309 after a donation of £750 from former Robin Duncan Watmore, now at Sunderland, and £860 from fans group The Flaggers, the money they would have spent in sponsoring Saturday’s scheduled game against Gloucester City.